Physics Today has an article written by a Pakistani Physicist about the state of Islamic Science. It’s a decent article, but if you want to know what he says, you’ll have to read it. I’m just going to comment on one section of the article:
As intolerance and militancy sweep across the Muslim world, personal and academic freedoms diminish with the rising pressure to conform. In Pakistani universities, the veil is now ubiquitous, and the last few unveiled women students are under intense pressure to cover up. The head of the government-funded mosque-cum-seminary in the heart of Islamabad, the nation’s capital, issued the following chilling warning to my university’s female students and faculty on his FM radio channel on 12 April 2007:
The government should abolish co-education. Quaid-i-Azam University has become a brothel. Its female professors and students roam in objectionable dresses. . . . Sportswomen are spreading nudity. I warn the sportswomen of Islamabad to stop participating in sports. . . . Our female students have not issued the threat of throwing acid on the uncovered faces of women. However, such a threat could be used for creating the fear of Islam among sinful women. There is no harm in it. There are far more horrible punishments in the hereafter for such women.
Throwing acid on a woman’s face occurs to “hundreds of women every year” in Pakistan. Sometimes it is used by the Muslims to enforce (terrorize) the population into following whatever conservative, Islamic demand they require of the population. Occasionally, it is used by violent, controlling men attacking a former lover. It’s reprehensible that anyone – particularly a leader – would threaten this kind of punishment. It’s pure evil because it permanently deforms the victim’s face for their entire life – making them look like some kind of monster. (I’d post a picture of one of these victims, but most of them are simply too horrific for me to post here.) It’s essentially saying: I’m not going to kill you, I’m just going to torture you by making sure you live out the rest of your days in lonely, disfigured sadness. That religion could support this by appealing to some fantasy afterlife and an appeal to strengthening “morality” in the population is incredible. (And they say religion is the source of morality?)
More Information: Google search: “pakistan acid face women” (742,000 hits)
I’ve often heard Muslims complain that these extremists aren’t following “True Islam”. While I’ve read enough quotes from the Koran to be suspicious of that argument, one thing that often stands out is the fact that the higher a Muslim’s position is within their religious world, the more likely they are to hold dogmatic, backwards, medieval views. It seems that the average Muslim is actually more tolerant than their religious leaders are – which seems exactly the opposite of what one would expect if the Koran was teaching goodness and tolerance. For example:
A survey carried out in Yemen revealed that even imams do not all share the same views on the matter [of the death penalty for apostates], even if the majority is for the death penalty. Still less convinced are Muslim businessmen and professionals, university students, and the head of the largest Islamic party in the Opposition, Mohammed Qahtan, who is persuaded that no Yemenite is in the same position as Rahman. (Link)
The *majority* of imams in Yemen support the death penalty for apostates? And Western Muslims argue that Islam is tolerant of apostates? How is that even possible that the majority of the religious *leaders* – those who know the Koran better than anyone – support death for apostasy if the Koran doesn’t teach it? Why is the rest of the population – who are less educated in the Koran, but living the same national experience as Muslim imams – *less* willing to accept death for apostasy? Some people try to argue that Muslim extremism is because of the things the West has done, but if that were true, there should be no difference between the views of Muslim Imams and the average Muslim – since they both had the same shared experience.
One note I should say about that quote – when it says, “no Yemenite is in the same position as Rahman”, I assume they are talking about Abdul Rahman, the Afghani who converted from Islam to Christianity and was sentenced to death for it. While it’s nice that Mohammed Qahtan thinks “no Yemenite is in the same position as Rahman”, he is essentially saying that he supports the death penalty for Rahman. (And, it should be noted that lots of Muslim clerics agreed with that death penalty.) Here’s an article on why Muslims agree with death for apostasy.
On a similar note of the backwardness being correlated with high status in the Muslim religious world, there’s that well-known quote of Saudi Arabia’s Supreme religious authority:
“The earth is flat, and anyone who disputes this claim is an atheist who deserves to be punished.” [Muslim religious edict, 1993, Sheik Abdel-Aziz Ibn Baaz, Supreme religious authority, Saudi Arabia]